NARRATIVE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS (NLEs)
NARRATIVE is the unifying lens through which we humans view the world around and inside of us. Let's begin by taking a look at several understandings of what a narrative means. Bruner (1990), defines narrative as, "a unique sequence of events, mental states, happenings involving human beings as characters or actors: these are its constituents. But these constituents do not have a life or meaning of their own. There meaning is given by their place in the overall configuration of the sequence as a whole - its plot or fabula".
This is true of the TeamEverest and PolarLeader narratives, but we have also discovered that through arranging the episodic elements of the story into a new configuration we can adapt and change the narrative to meet focused objectives and outcomes. This is more inline with Ricoeur (1981). "The activity of narrating does not consist simply in adding episodes to one another; it also constructs meaningful totalities out of scattered events".
The major trends of gamification in learning and research around memorability and immersive environments, as well as the significant role gaming plays in the lives of millennials has resulted in an emerging interest in narrative-centered learning for education and training. The creation of these environments draws participants into the story while simultaneously satisfying pedagogical goals in an enjoyable, motivating, memorable and effective manner.
By us putting extra energy and time into consciously constructing the narrative elements, plot , characters, metaphor and the environment we can create a Narrative Presence that is compelling at an emotional, intellectual and sometimes a spiritual level - all the time didactic knowledge is being transferred. We see this as a Win Win Win.
For me, there is no better image to describe this process of being IN the story. I was doing a storytelling session for "all ages" at a gathering I attend each year.
I had loosely prepared a story as I always adapt my story to what is going on here and now. I arrived early and asked the first child who arrived, "Who is the one character you'd like to see show up in the story."
The first young girl to arrive was name was a five year old named Mia, she hesitated for a split second then responded, "A Unicorn Princess."
"I said you could only choose one character."
"The Unicorn Princess is one character," Mia replied.
At that moment another child arrived and so I asked them who they'd like to see in the story.
"Brocolli," the boy replied.
As each of the sixteen children arrived they shared with me their favourite character.
I now had to weave a story together with all sixteen characters making at least one appearance. Woe be it if one was left out!
As it turns out I did leave out one character - and it just happened to be the Unicorn Princess. The cry that went up at the end of the story was from the very soul of the young girl. I quickly regrouped and told a five-minute backstory where the Unicorn Princess turned out to be the real hero and made it all possible. Everyone held their breath as they sensed how important a task it was. By being steeped in story and narrative, somehow I managed to pull it off in a way that felt true to the participants and most especially to Mia.
That's the difference being in the story makes. Each child was literally IN the story. They each identified with the character they chose in some deep, imaginative and meaningful way.
We at Storied Ground put a great deal of energy and creativity into designing as many hooks into the story as possible. And for us the Townhall Builder technology is crucial, as it helps us respond to participants in the moment and create a narrative where they are IN the story. It's a learning difference that really does make a difference.
BEING INSIDE RATHER THAN OUTSIDE THE STORY
All our Narratives are constructed to lure participants INTO the story. There are many ways known to traditional storytellers to do this and we will continue to use technologies and techniques that enhance immersion in the story. It is critical that participants identify with the characters, the predicaments they face and the unfolding plot. This is where the power of story and metaphor do the heavy lifting of imprinting on our memory and broadening our capacity, empathy, and understanding - all the time conserving scarce cognitive resources.
We at Storied Ground have spent 30 years honing the science and art of creating Narrative Learning Environments to offer you the most extraordinary learning opportunities on the planet.
Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press
Ricoeur P. (1981) Hermeneutics and the human sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Giuliana Dettori, Tania Giannetti. A Concise Introduction to Narrative Learning Environments. Research Report. 2006.